Upper Cross Syndrome. Road Warriors + Desk Jockeys Listen Up!

05-ALet’s face it; we find ourselves in a seated position more than we should. In fact, the healthcare industry has tagged sitting as the new smoking. That’s a powerful claim and one we’ve found is totally warranted. Whether you’re a desk jockey, a road warrior or a combination of both, it’s probably pretty likely you’re in that dreaded seated position way too much in your life.

There are several complications from the seated position (upper and lower). This post could get crazy long if we try to conquer both so lets start with upper body. Some of the most common issues that arise from the seated position are neck and upper back pain. These pain patterns are typically symptoms of a syndrome called Upper Cross Syndrome or nicknamed “Corporate Syndrome Posture”.

Typically a decent rule of thumb for proper head carriage is ears over shoulders, meaning that you head stacks up on top of your body, not stretching forward or downward. However, when we’re seated- staring at a computer screen, or down at some electronic- that head carriage starts to move anteriorly (as in the picture below). The musculature in the front of the neck becomes deconditioned because it’s not being used, and the muscles in the back of the have to start picking up the slack. Ooooonly… they were never meant to hold our heads back so they’re become tight and overused. We also have this rounding forward position that happens as we hunch over keyboards/phones, so with the posterior neck muscles the pecs become short and tight, while the Middle/Lower Traps and Serratus Anterior in the back become weak.


Beyond contributing to a gnarly looking posture (think Grandma’s hunched back) these muscular dysfunctions can lead to pain throughout the neck and upper back, headaches, and/or numbness and tingling in the extremities. It’s important to recognize if something is tight and weak you need to address the soft tissue components. Active Release Technique helps break down adhesions that have built up over years of faulty repetitive motion patterns. With this, some sort of strengthening to retrain your muscles also needs to happen and measures to combat the faulty posture/motion need to be devised. You can also bet I’m going to recommend getting motion back into the joints that have become locked down, either from chiropractic manipulations or mobilizations.

A good start point is working through the structures previously mentioned. Some quick and easy stretches are as follows:

Upper Trap Stretch

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Tilting your ear to shoulder, lightly grasp your head to gently pull. Using your opposite hand, traction down on your seat to increase the stretch. This should be felt through the lateral neck to top of shoulder- 3x30s

Levator Scap

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Angling you nose in line with your knee, gently pull forward and down on back of head. Using your opposite hand traction down on your seat to increase the stretch. This should be felt through the posterior neck to the top of scapula (shoulder blade)- 3x30s


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Reaching forward with your with both hands, round through your mid-back while trying to spread your shoulder blades apart- 3x 5-7s. To increase stretch tilt head forward and down.

Pectoralis Major

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Block your hand on another chair, or through an open door and gently push shoulder forward to stretch through front of chest. 3x30s

Chin Tuck (deep neck flexor strengthening)


With your head against your head rest/wall/etc, tuck your chin back (creating a beautiful double chin). Keep your eyes level and forward, not letting your chin drop to you chest (or look down). This one can be quite deceiving with how difficult it can be, don’t over-do it.

Hopefully this provides some insight into a first line of defense to take for you road warriors or desk jockeys. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

Dr. Katie Clare, DC, CCSP, ART

Dauntless Sport & Spine Clinic
4510 W. 77th St, Edina, MN 55435

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